Vienna comes to Jerusalem

A new exhibition at Beit Ticho provides a picture of the environment in which the young Anna Ticho lived and studied.

Egon Schiele, ‘Krumau Town Crescent,’ 1915 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Museum)
Egon Schiele, ‘Krumau Town Crescent,’ 1915 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Israel Museum)
It’s a fair bet that not many people rushing by the impressive-looking facade of the old office building near Schwedenplatz in central Vienna are aware of the place’s connection to a neatly appointed eatery and museum in downtown Jerusalem.
Timna Seligman, the curator of the “Anna’s Vienna” exhibition, which opened at Beit Anna Ticho on October 25 and runs until April 2013, certainly is. When we meet, just around the corner from Schwedenplatz, she is clearly delighted to have found the building where Ticho spent some of her formative years before moving to Jerusalem with her family.
As we tuck in to delicious pastries and strong coffee at a comfortable coffee house on the nearby picturesque Fleischmarkt, Seligman talks about how the idea for the exhibition developed and gradually evolved.
“I was here in 2008 to work on the [Austrian feminist artist] “Valie Export” exhibition, which I held at Beit Ticho in 2009. I was walking around the streets and I felt the atmosphere of the place, the arts and the vibrancy. And I was thinking about how it was 100 years earlier, at the time of the Secession [the movement that included such artists as Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann], and I thought that all that had to have affected Anna Ticho. She lived here, as a teenager, from 1908 when there was the Kunstchau [large-scale art show, arranged by the Gustav Klimt Group] until she moved to Jerusalem in 1912. Her formative art training was also here in Vienna.”
Ticho began studying drawing in Vienna at the age of 15, in 1909.
“Anna’s Vienna” provides an extensive picture of the environment in which the young Ticho lived, studied and probably dreamed. It incorporates approximately 100 drawings, paintings, pieces of furniture and household objects dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Vienna. The concept behind the show is to provide a picture of the visual and material culture in Vienna when Anna Ticho was a young girl growing up in the city.
The exhibits take in works by Klimt, Egon Schiele, Hoffmann, Moser and 19th-century cabinet maker Michael Thonet. There are glassware and ceramics made at Loetz, the early 20th-century Bohemian glassware production facility, at the Zsolnay porcelain and pottery factory in Hungary, and by Moser.
The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) visual artists’ production community, founded in 1903 in the wake of the Secession, was also an important component of the artistic ambiance of Vienna during Ticho’s adolescent years there, and the Jerusalem show includes several items produced by the group’s members.
Seligman says she had to turn sleuth to track down Ticho’s Vienna home.
“Among her personal papers that were left in the archives of Beit Ticho is a postcard album which Anna kept when she was a teenager,” says the curator.
“Anna collected some of the postcards from various sources, but some were actually sent to her from her birthplace in Moravia, with the address 21 Franz Josefs Kai. I looked it up and that’s the building we saw before. It was nice to find the exact address.”
Ticho’s Viennese home was in a good location.
“Schwedenplatz is near the Jewish Quarter, the Second District, and it faces the [Danube] canal,” continues Seligman. “Of course, it adds so much to the background of the exhibition in Jerusalem.”
Seligman also notes there is some nice symmetry to the beginning of the exhibition project and its actual fruition.
“The idea for the exhibition started in 2008 and it is happening in 2012. Anna lived here from 1908 to 1912. So it very much ties in with the Vienna- Jerusalem connection. I think that’s quite neat.”
Mind you, Ticho didn’t exactly fall in love with her new surroundings when she reached the Holy Land and, in fact, suspended her artistic work for some years. She came here with her cousin Avraham Albert Ticho, whom she later married. He was a respected ophthalmologist and, from 1924, after the couple bought the building and surrounding gardens from the prominent local Nashashibi family, it served both as a home for the couple and as an eye clinic. Anna worked as his assistant. The clinic was closed in 1960 when Avraham Albert died.
After a lengthy hiatus from her art, Ticho finally began to get to grips with the dramatically different natural light in this part of the world and the starkness of the area around Jerusalem. In the 1930s she produced some of her most striking paintings and drawings of the Jerusalem Hills, and portraits of local people. Today, her drawings and watercolors are exhibited in major museums around the world.
Seligman says the idea behind the exhibition is to convey a sense of the Viennese zeitgeist of Ticho’s youth rather than replicating exactly what she was up to or what the leading lights of the local artistic community were doing and saying then.
“The exhibition is really to give people an idea of what Anna would have witnessed and what would have influenced her. The exhibition is eclectic.
There was no desire to rebuild the house she lived in at the time, although there are elements of that in the exhibition. It is more to create the sense of what she would have seen when she went out to exhibitions in Vienna of that time.”
Ticho had a steady hand and eye, and she quickly developed her own personal drawing style during her initial years of training in Vienna.
“Some of her works as a student, some of which we see in the exhibition, display excellent draftsmanship already from a young age. There is incredible line and incredible control of the charcoal and incredible use of shading and building up volume. You can already see she is an expert in technique. You can probably attribute that to the academic background she got, even though she railed against it at the time.”
Ticho’s teenage environment did eventually make its presence felt. “These are not typical fin-de-siècle works,” notes Seligman. “That comes out in her work much later on, in the things she did in the 1950s. Her nude sketches from that time suddenly show influences of Schiele, and the way her nudes fill the space makes you think of Klimt. It is almost as if, in her teenage years, you don’t see the influence of her living through one of the most vibrant periods in Vienna’s history.
“It took a while for things to filter through, and for Anna to become a well formed artist, and that’s when you see Vienna in her works.”
For more information about “Anna’s Vienna”: 624-5068, 624-4186 or